Our theme for this month: “Life on this side of the cross”
Our Bible verse for today: “Then he led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. And while he was blessing them, he left them and was carried up into heaven. After worshiping him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:50-53 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Jesus was gone, but not for long.”
Jesus spent approximately thirty-three years on earth in a human body. Then, after His resurrection, He spent forty days more on earth in His resurrection body. The Bible records ten different occasions during this forty-day period when the resurrected Jesus appeared to hundreds of people. There could very well have been more occasions that the Bible does not tell us about, but we do know there were at least ten involving hundreds of different people.
Then, at the end of the forty days, Jesus took a group of His closest followers out to the Mount of Olives near the village of Bethany, about a day’s walk from Jerusalem. He was about to leave them and return to heaven, and this confused them. They had been thinking all along that the Messiah, when He finally came, would restore the kingdom of God on earth – and they were especially thinking that once they witnessed Jesus in His resurrection body. So as they stood there on the Mount, with Jesus about to leave them by ascending back into heaven, they asked Him, “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) But Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8).
There was then one more thing that had to happen before the final phase of God’s plan for mankind would be fully inaugurated. The Holy Spirit was coming and He would infuse them with the power they would need in order to carry on the work of Christ on earth. They still didn’t fully understand what that meant, but they were eagerly looking forward to it. That passage in Acts chapter one goes on to tell us that as soon as Jesus had said these words His body literally left the ground before their eyes and He ascended up in the air and out of sight. Then angels stood before them and said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
The disciples then returned to Jerusalem filled with joy and eagerness and a great sense of expectation. Ten days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came as promised. We will pick the story up there tomorrow.